Swine influenza (in pigs) FAQs
It is important that all keepers of pigs in Queensland continue to enforce good on-farm biosecurity procedures.
The World Health Organization advises that humans cannot contract swine influenza through eating pork and pork meat products, so there is no reason to avoid consuming pork products.
If you suspect swine influenza in your pigs contact Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.
How is the influenza in pigs related to the influenza in humans?
A number of influenza strains infect only pigs.
Some influenza strains have a potential to infect both pigs and humans or to mix in pigs to produce new strains that can infect humans.
In 2009 the Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza strain was detected in two piggeries in Queensland; one near Dalby and the other near Toowoomba. This was the same as the strain infecting humans in several countries including Australia.
What is human swine influenza?
In 2009 a new variation of the H1N1 sub-type of influenza A that combined elements from known swine, avian and human influenza viruses caused concern and widespread human infection in several countries, including Australia.
It was called 'swine influenza' because analysis of the virus identified the swine elements within the virus first. However, the name was misleading as it was a predominantly a human virus that spread from human to human.
What is a typical 'swine' influenza in pigs?
The influenza that infects pigs occurs in most areas of the world where pigs are kept. Until 2009 it had never been reported in Australia.
Swine influenza is a highly contagious, acute respiratory disease of pigs caused by type-A influenza viruses. Swine influenza in pigs is characterised by large numbers of pigs being infected but with low numbers dying as a result.
Swine influenza in pigs occurs in most other pig-producing countries and is considered endemic in North America and Europe, while outbreaks have been reported in Africa, Asia and South America.
Many countries routinely vaccinate their swine populations. Inactivated vaccines for some swine influenza strains are registered for use in pigs overseas, but not in Australia.
Swine influenza viruses are normally restricted to pigs; it is rare for swine influenza viruses to infect humans but it is known that pigs have a potential to mix different strains of influenza viruses together to produce new strains.
International outbreaks and sporadic infections in people (swine to people) have been reported occasionally in the past, but rarely has that infection then been reported to continue to spread from person to person.
Swine influenza is category 1 restricted matter (for H1N1 strain) or prohibited matter (for all other strains) under the Biosecurity Act 2014; if you suspect swine influenza in your pigs, you must contact Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.
Is there a threat to the pork industry in Australia?
Swine flu has previously been present in only a few herds in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. National response arrangements were activated and the virus was eradicated from these piggeries.
Pork is safe to eat.
Piggeries in Australia have good biosecurity programs that limit human to pig contact.
Is it safe to eat pork and pig meat products?
The World Health Organization advises that humans cannot contract swine influenza through eating pork and pork meat products.
Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe.
Cooking pork to normal cooking temperatures (70°C) kills the influenza virus.
What should pig producers do?
Continue to enforce good on-farm biosecurity procedures that are normally undertaken. Update property biosecurity plans by checking the Biosecurity Queensland website and Australian Pork Limited website to get further information about suitable farm biosecurity procedures.
Continue to be vigilant with disinfection and cleaning when people enter and leave the farm.
Report all cases of suspect swine influenza in pigs to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.
What are typical symptoms of swine influenza in pigs?
In the Australian herd, the disease would typically be expected to manifest as a sudden onset of the following symptoms in pigs of any age:
- going off feed
- high fever
- discharge from eyes and nose, sneezing
- breathing difficulties
- barking cough
- huddling and inactivity.
In general a large number of pigs are likely to be affected (up to 100%) but only a small number are likely to die (1-3%). If your pigs show these signs, consult your veterinary advisor and report the signs to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.
What should people with flu symptoms do?
Anyone who has flu-like symptoms and is concerned about this disease should contact their local doctor, Queensland Health population health unit or ring 13HEALTH.
Information is also available from the Queensland Health website.
What happens if the disease is detected in a pig herd in Queensland?
Biosecurity Queensland will work with the owner to manage the disease in the piggery according to an agreed national response policy.
Strict biosecurity controls will be applied to contain the disease and prevent disease spread to other pigs and farms with pigs, and also to humans working with the infected pigs, with a view to eradicating the disease.
If a swine influenza incident is considered not able to be contained or eradicated within an acceptable time period (e.g. pandemic H1N1), the government will support industry to protect animal health and welfare, worker health and safety, and market access.
Farmers with pigs will be reminded to remain vigilant with regards to their biosecurity and notification obligations.